Monday February 19, 2018
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In Bihar battle, who cares about environment?

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Patna: For an election that can make or break the main contenders for power in Bihar, no one seems bothered about environmental issues.

The ever increasing pollution in the Ganges, people hit hard by arsenic, fluoride and iron content in drinking water, rising air pollution and falling rainfall — issues that affect millions — have been given a go-by as Bihar readies for the third round of the five-phase assembly election.

Political parties and top leaders are harping on economic development, job quotas, beef, shooting prices of food items as well as caste equations to woo voters.

Neither the BJP-led NDA of Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor the Grand Alliance of the JD-U, RJD and Congress led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar appear to take up green issues.

With star campaigners from Modi to BJP president Amit Shah and Nitish Kumar to RJD chief Lalu Prasad trying hard to target youths by promising development including jobs to education, green issues have been missing from the campaign.

Yet, pollution is a major issue for millions all over Bihar.

In places like Patna, Buxar and Bhagalpur districts, pollution in the Ganges is worrying everyone.

According to Gangetic dolphin expert R.K. Sinha, over the years disposal of untreated waste has been the major cause for growing pollution in the river considered holy by Hindus.

Six major drains carry untreated water directly into the river in Patna.

“Any development cannot be sustainable by ignoring environmental concerns. If our water and air are polluted, what kind of development are we talking about? Development minus environment is like fish without water,” said Ranjeev, a green activist.

He warned that the neglect of green issues will cost the people of Bihar dear, particularly the poor, in view of climate changes.

“A large part of Bihar is in the Himalayan terai area, which is most vulnerable to climate change. The poor will face livelihood problems but surprisingly it is not an issue in the election campaign,” he said.

Another environment activist, Mahender Yadav, said some green issues were mentioned in some manifestos but were not raised at public rallies.

Rampati Kumar, CEO of the Centre for Environment and Energy Development(CEED), said environmental issues were the real challenge.

Rampati Kumar told IANS that the political class had forgotten green issues.

“It is a sad part of our elections. If only politicians raise green issues and talk about them, it will certainly create awareness and help the environment to take centre stage,” he said.

Ranjeev said climate change was going to hit agriculture.

“Today, the central government is stressing the need to import pulses to get over the pulse crisis. But when climate change will hit the farming communiy, how many food items can we import?”

Patna, Bihar’s biggest city, has over two million people and noise levels are very high. But few legislators appear to be bothered.

“The vehicular pollution is the biggest health hazard for all. But there is no cry for CNG in Patna,” said Ranjeev.

This year Bihar received nearly 29 percent deficit rainfall, leading to a drought like situation in over two dozen districts.

Thanks to pollution-induced weather changes, Bihar has already faced one drought after another.

“It is a bad sign. Bihar is still an agrarian state where most people depend on it for livelihood.”
(Imran Khan, IANS)

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AAP’S Media Spend Is Four Times That Of Previous Government: RTI Reply

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP's one year in power in 2016

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Picture of Arvind Kejriwal addressing a rally. Wikimedia Commons
  • The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore
  • The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government
  • A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016

The AAP government has spent an average of Rs 70.5 crore annually in the past three years on advertisements — four times more than the previous government’s expenditure on print, electronic and outdoor advertising, according to an RTI reply.

In the first year after assuming office in February 2015, the current government spent Rs 59.9 crore on advertisements, Rs 66.3 crore the next year and Rs 85.3 crore up to December 31, 2017, the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) said in reply to an RTI application by IANS.

The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore. The Congress’ average was Rs 17.4 crore in the last five years of its rule (2008-2013).

Also Read: AAP welcomes BJP’s stand on inter-faith marriages

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers.

For instance, when the AAP government completed its first and second anniversary in 2016 and 2017, leading newspapers in the capital carried full-page advertisements, highlighting the achievements of the government.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons
The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons

In the run-up to celebrating its three years in office, the government in the first two weeks of February carried advertisements flashing pictures of the Chief Minister or other ministers. The highlights included the inauguration of community toilets, excellence awards distribution for students, a government meeting on “smart gaon”, and invitation of applications for scholarship schemes.

The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government.

Also Read: Blow for Kejriwal: EC recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs

But the average advertisement rate charged by a leading English newspaper, comparing the Congress government and AAP government periods, has increased by about 17 percent, according to DAVP.

For the same period, the average rate charged by another leading English newspaper has increased by about 35 percent.

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016.

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons
According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements.

Last year, the government came under an opposition attack after Lt. Governor Anil Baijal asked the AAP to cough up Rs 97 crore spent on advertisements, allegedly to promote the party instead of the government. The LG order was based on a report by the Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA).

Also Read: 5 Years of AAP: How Society Has Been Backstabbed by ChandaChor Kejriwal

The regulatory authority asked the Delhi government to assess the expenditure in issuing “those advertisements/advertorials in which the name of the Aam Aadmi Party is mentioned” and other factors.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there.

Delhi government spokesperson Nagendar Sharma said he has “no comments” to offer on the increase in expenditure.

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons
The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons

Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken said: “They (AAP) are using the power of advertisements to put pressure on TV (channels) and newspapers. They are doing it ruthlessly”.

BJP MLA and Delhi Assembly Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta termed the government’s spending on advertisements as “irrational”. “Misuse of public money in this way is completely unjustified and unethical,” Gupta told IANS. (IANS)